Last summer, a woman brought a wedding dress, cake, and decorations into the House of Purge in Charlotte, NC, where she and her friends smashed and destroyed all of it. This woman was a bride left at the altar, and had sought out this newly opened “rage room” to confront her anger and frustration over her abandonment. Rage rooms are gaining popularity throughout the US, offering space and a variety of materials for customers to break, throw, smash, or otherwise destroy. Prices range anywhere from $15-$140, which allows customers anywhere from 5-30 minutes to smash electronics and dishes with sledgehammers, baseball bats, and golf clubs. A venue in Chicago offers 3D-printed busts of President Donald Trump for an additional $8 each. Often, venues offer the option of customizable materials. Venue owners recall requests such as filling a room with balloons for a person to pop, or with decks of playing cards for someone to rip up.p.
Customers can usually write messages on the walls. Rooms from across the country show graffiti messages such as, “4 more years,” “2 years and I still haven’t killed him … thanks 2 this place!,” “Release your rage today! Leave happy,” or “Therapy for a month.”
People go to rage rooms seeking to release frustration, anger, or sadness over jobs, relationships, family, politics, or all of the above. NBC notes that teachers and stay at home moms are some of the biggest customers. Joe Lupa, the owner of Rage Room in Chicago, recalled that “a woman began smashing items, paused and then wept uncontrollably. When staff members tried to comfort her, she revealed her son recently committed suicide.” He noted, “It’s a catharsis…From what I’ve seen, we really do help people.”
“Some people like to go out and work out,” said Vantroy Green, owner of House of Purge. “Some people like to go to church, or you know, meditate and walk and run, but some people like to break things.”
Dr. Kevin Bennett, writing for Psychology Today, questions the effectiveness of these rage rooms, and he’s not the only one. “We should be working towards minimizing aggression and violence in society,” he advises, “not encouraging it even if it is dressed up as a fun afternoon demolishing things normally off limits….When you spend time thumping an inanimate object, like a pillow, or beating nonliving things in a rage room, you are conditioning yourself to quickly become aggressive next time your anxiety levels rise. So instead of opening up the escape valve on a pot of steam, you are rewarding your distressed feelings with the instant and ephemeral pleasure that comes from throwing dishes against a wall.”
Writer Sophie Haigney also cautions against the idea that rage rooms are good for physical workouts, writing about her experience at one for VOX: “I threw [the dishes] against the walls, where they broke instantly. It was hard to stop, even as I sweated and my right shoulder began to ache alarmingly. (Raging is extremely physical, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s good for the body.)”
Amidst this polarized debate about the rage rooms, which is, ultimately, a debate about conceptualize and deal with anger, we’ve asked MindPath Care Centers providers to weigh in and offer their professional opinions:
“[Rage rooms are] helpful,” says Wake Forest provider Michael Marcinowski, LPC, NCC, CCTP. “Using some type of controlled physical exertion when you’re angry releases different chemicals in the brain and it can change the way you feel!”
Julie Killion, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC, also in Wake Forest, agrees that “a ‘rage room’ could be a great therapeutic tool for some people. Often times anger and frustration can manifest in a physical way (people experience muscle tension, feeling hot, shaking, etc.) and have an urge to release these emotions externally. Having an appropriate and structured outlet could be healing. However,” she cautions, “as with everything, I think it is important that this be considered on an individual basis because this may not be helpful for everyone.”
Dorine Martin, MSN, FNP-BC, in Raleigh, agrees with this analysis, adding that, “This could be helpful, especially if it would decrease intimate partner violence.”
Raleigh provider Matthew Wolf, MSW, LCSW, says, “I commonly recommend clients join a boxing gym or take up shotgun shooting (if their anger is not directed at self) and blow some clay pigeons to dust. Sometimes you gotta blow stuff up. As long as no people get hurt, I think it can be therapeutic.”
On the other hand, Dr. Yvonne Monroe, MD, in Durham, notes that, “I used to recommend that my most disturbed patients, who had suffered unthinkable childhood trauma, go to glass recycling… in the 80s and 90s there were padded bats for therapists. Then a study showed that encouraging physical expression of rage tended to increase its expression even when not in the therapy setting.”
Dorothy Muccio, MSW, LCSW, also disagrees with the idea that rage rooms are effective, explaining that, “From a body centered perspective, the unregulated release of anger only reinforces this tendency in the brain. A helpful and healing way to address this would to be to use mindfulness and therapeutic support to express and process the rage. This entails the use of mindfulness, body-centered techniques which slow down the process so it can be studied and learned from. The physical release of the anger is done in slow motion as a way to effectively follow through on blocked impulses in a safe and tuned in way that yields insight for the patient on what the rage is about. I would not recommend just smashing things to get the rage out.”
Overall, it seems there it not much of a consensus amongst mental health professionals when it comes to the effectiveness of rage rooms. Two things that everyone can agree on: these rooms are certainly cathartic, and that catharsis is something that needs to be taken in manageable doses. It may be a better idea to speak to a professional if you are experiencing long term rage issues. But as an occasional venting technique for extreme circumstances, such as being left at the altar, it’s hard not to see the appeal.